When I was first getting into bodybuilding, Dorian Yates was king, and every article you read in any magazine (there was no internet back then!) had to at least mention the dangers of “overtraining” (cue scary music).
Of course I was pretty scrawny back then, and if I knew even a fraction of what I know now, I would have realized that overtraining was the last thing I needed to be worrying about.
I did fairly well, but possibly only because I had started off fairly skinny. It was when I started competing that, although I felt that I knew a lot and had definitely made very respectable progress (I surprisingly did very well in that first show!), I realized in talking to other competitors backstage that I was doing less than they were in terms of volume and frequency. Had my Weider Magazines led me astray?!
Bottom line, is that as I learned more, in terms of actual scientific writings, comparing notes with all of the best competitors (pros in Wnbf and IFBB/NPC), I found a lot of common threads. When I started researching as much as I could about the “old school” greats (anyone who knows me realizes that I put a lot of stock in Bill Pearl), I found the same approaches. So let me throw a few quotes out here, and please take into account the results these people have had with them, OR, the limitations of the studies that seem to always exist supporting both sides of an argument.
“The longer you have in the sport of bodybuilding, if you want to continue to improve, you’ve got to spend more time at it. If you want to get big, thick, coarse, bulky muscles, handle heavy weights, keep your reps low at about 6 to 8, and do numerous sets and you will grow.” - Bill Pearl
“I NEVER since day one believed in overtraining. I always said it was bullshit! I train volume all day every day”
-Shevon Cunningham (5x NATURAL world champion)
I don’t have a quote, but here’s recent Wnbf Natural Pro Gary Amlinger, another advocate for increased volume as you progress and can tolerate and grow from it as an advanced trainer:
Now, Shevon and Gary compete around the Middle/Lt Heavyweight classes, so they’re not the sub 150 lb bantam weights that some people think all “natural bodybuilders” look like. They guys would easily smoke most NPC competitors I routinely see at contests.
I’m not saying there’s so such thing as overtraining, because every individual has their own recovery ability, and of course how much care they give to their diet and recovery efforts. But, assuming you don’t run yourself into the ground with no breaks, or back off planning ever, even the oft quoted online Brad Schoenfeld acknowledges:
“Research provides compelling evidence that higher volume loads are neccessary to maximize anabolism…The fact that it did not reach a plateau in the volume studied suggests that higher volumes might have led to even greater increases.”
“The prevailing body of evidence from longitudinal studies is consistent with evidence from studies of acute data. A clear dose-response relationship was noted between volume and hypertrophy - that is, higher volumes correlate to greater hypertrophic adaptations, at least up to a certain point.”
“More advanced lifters seem to require greater volumes to maximize muscle protein accretion, perhaps double that of untrained people.”
Now I can easily start pulling all sorts of stuff out of textbooks, or quoting studies, but a simple look at the common understanding and application among the thickest guys back int he 1950’s and the biggest and thickest guys I see on the tested stage today (as well as experienced myself after I switched things up after already 15 years of result producing training!) is all most people need to hear.